​Create a Strategy for your Unit

Stop making frameworks – start making guides!

This battle cry reached me yesterday via Twitter and Medium. It came from Jurgen Appelo, the author of Management 3.0. I think both, great frameworks and small, practical guides are important. As this blog tilts more towards long reads about frameworks, I thought it a good idea to come up with a small, step by step “work out” guide once in a while.

You can find more work out guides on ImpactSphere.


What is the main quality that everyone wants from co-workers? It is that you care. You care about your customer, your job, your team, your organization. Inexperience and failure will be forgiven, if only you care.

And what kind of care is more important than taking care that your unit moves in the right direction, is doing the right things? There is always something to improve in the way things are done, but once in a while, it pays off nicely to raise heads and check whether the direction is still the right one.

1)  Identify the customer

The very nature of a business is: You are doing something valuable for somebody else. And even if you are hidden somewhere in an administrative department with no exposure to people outside the organization: Your unit has customers.

2) Determine the jobs your customer wants your unit to do

Ask some of your customers – the happy ones, the wary and the neutral. Bother them with open questions: Why? What? How? Ask them about measurable, material things but do not forget to ask them about their emotions, too. Write that down.

3) Watch your customers working

Do not rely on what you heard from your customers because sometimes they reveal something to you but really want something else. Sit next to them for a while. Do not be shy – most people like that somebody shows genuine interest.

4) Discuss your findings with your colleagues

In private one by one conversation in the cafeteria. In a small group to discuss your observations. The target is to add new perspectives, fill blind spots and come up with some hypothesis, too.

5) Write down the jobs to be done by your unit 

Combine everything you gathered from Steps 1 to 4 and write down your first hypothesis: The jobs that should be on the job to be done by your unit which is truly valuable to the client. This establishes the answer to the question why your unit is there.

6) Determine the things to improve

In determining what needs to change, think of the dimensions People, Organization, Process, and Systems. Create a holistic picture about everything that helps to get your unit there, from training to new software tools

7) Discuss with your manager

Ask for one hour of time and go through your short (5 to 10 page) document. Open up with a statement like: “I have been thinking a lot about what we can do to improve. I made some thoughts that I like your perspective on to help me understand your and our situation better”. Be humble and honest. Be disarming. It gets the conversation going.

8) Be open for what happens next

Maybe some actions will follow. Maybe a new project. Maybe nothing much actionable will happen. But you showed that you care to everyone involved and that you are prepared to make a difference. Everyone involved has gained insights. And with time comes opportunity.

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